Patients will need to be seen by non-doctors

The ‘non-doctor’ will see you now! Patients will need to be treated by ‘social care navigators’ and ‘nurse practitioners’ to clear the lockdown backlog, medical leader warns

  • Patients may have to get used to having appointments with physician associates
  • They do just two years’ medical training and care navigators can be receptionists
  • There are nearly four million people awaiting operations or treatment right now 

Patients  will need to be seen by non-doctors including ‘social care navigators’, ‘physician associates’ and ‘nurse practitioners’ to clear the lockdown backlog, a medical leader warns.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard predicted the waiting lists of the past five months will continue to rise unless the NHS radically alters how it delivers care.

The chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said patients will need to get used to having appointments with physician associates, who do just two years’ medical training, and care navigators, who are often receptionists. Nurses will also have to take on doctors’ roles.

There are nearly four million people awaiting operations or treatment. Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We have to do things differently. There are many other healthcare professionals who do an amazing job.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard predicted the waiting lists of the past five months will continue to rise unless the NHS radically alters how it delivers care. Pictured: Stock photo of a medical professional using a stethoscope

‘But people are suspicious and many times patients say to me, “are you fobbing me off doctor?”.

‘There’s a fear and paranoia that if people aren’t being seen by a doctor they are somehow getting something inferior. That’s absolutely not the case. These healthcare professionals are highly trained.

‘There are people like healthcare navigators who literally help you through the system. You’ve got people like physician assistants who are highly trained in certain elements in certain medical care. 

We’ve got advanced nurse practitioners who do a lot of urgent medical care.

‘There’s a whole myriad of different healthcare professionals who are confusing to people.

‘I would encourage patients to give it a go and keep an open mind.’

Professor Stokes-Lampard said a patient with a sprained knee who would have traditionally been seen by a GP could now be seen by experts such as paramedics, musculoskeletal practitioners and ‘social prescribers’ – non-medically trained staff who put patients in touch with charities, exercise clubs or other activities.

She also urged healthcare staff to be honest with patients about the sheer size of the NHS waiting list and how long they were going to have to wait before being seen.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is one of the most influential healthcare bodies in the country.

Professor Stokes-Lampard, who practises as a GP in Lichfield in Staffordshire, became chairman of the Academy last month after three years at the Royal College of GPs.

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